6 powerful utilities that make the Mac feel like home

I love using my Mac. And yet when I am confronted with a fresh new device running macOS, I am taken aback by the barren expanse that is the default Mac experience. That’s not on the Mac, that’s on me—I have become incredibly reliant on some fantastic utilities that enhance the Mac experience in countless ways.

Every now and then I mention these utilities to friends who are Mac users, or they see me using them, and they are often completely baffled. This reminds me that, quite shockingly, there are lots of Mac users who never take advantage of utilities to make the Mac far more powerful than it comes out of the box.

Here, then, are some of the utilities that make the Mac feel like home for me.

Go beyond launching apps

A few years ago, there was a surge of utilities that provided quick access to your Mac apps by typing a few keystrokes. LaunchBar, Alfred, and Quicksilver were the most prominent examples. Then Apple came and (quite rightly) added quick app launching to Spotlight, eliminating the original reason all those other utilities existed.

No worries. The quick-launcher apps have managed to stay relevant by adding all sorts of other features. I know a lot of people who rely on Alfred, but I’ve been a user of Objective Development’s $29 LaunchBar for years and my Mac feels empty without it.

launchbar clipboard

Among LaunchBar’s many features is a clipboard history.

Yes, I use LaunchBar to launch apps and open files—its algorithm for guessing what you’re looking for as you type is still superior to Spotlight’s—but I’d have probably dumped it if I hadn’t come to rely on so many other features. I use LaunchBar to find the right emoji to insert into an iMessage, make quick math calculations on the fly, launch automation routines, and open specific Google Docs.

Perhaps most commonly, I use LaunchBar as a clipboard manager. There are lots of apps out there that will convert the Mac’s traditional single-use clipboard into a large, accessible stack of clipboard items. Since it’s a feature LaunchBar includes, I haven’t needed anything else.

Regardless of whether you use LaunchBar or something else, I highly recommend using one of the Mac’s many great clipboard managers. Being confident that everything you copy to the clipboard remains accessible can be a huge productivity boost. Tasks that used to require toggling back and forth between different apps can be done in a more linear fashion—you copy all the stuff you need, one by one, and then switch to the other app and paste it all in, one by one.